Funky and stylish
BRIAN BASSETT goes shopping in the Honda Brio Hatch i-vtec Comfort
WHILE doing research for this review, I remembered an instruction on a Mozart sonata I used to play as a child.
It asked for the piece to be played allegro con brio, which means faster with energy. It reminded me of the act that a number of Honda’s vehicles have musical associations, like the Ballade, the Jazz and now the Brio.
The Brio was introduced to South Africa in 2012, after being launched at the Thailand International Expo in 2010. At the launch, the CEO of Honda identified the car as being aimed at younger markets in developing countries and so the Brio was produced as an attractive model at an affordable price. Our thanks to Gary Stokes dealer principal of Honda Fury in Pietermaritzburg for allowing us a few days with the vehicle in order to find out whether Honda’s hopes for the car have become a reality.
There is a temptation to see the Brio as a junior Jazz; solid as a rock, able to survive a North Korean nuclear test and with more internal space than a woman’s handbag. Certainly, its smiling front face with composite headlight pods flanking a centrally placed Honda badge underlined by a black grille flanked by fog lamps, does have a family link with the Jazz, but moving backwards along the rising crease lines on the bonnet and the dynamic, wedged waistline at the sides, the Brio has a design energy of its own. Having said that, as one’s eye reaches the roof summit, the design cuts off and becomes the tail-gate, which is something of a visual let down. Also, the tailgate doubles as the rear window and I was somewhat uncomfortable slamming it closed for fear of breakage, although you get used to it. The colour-coded side mirrors are electric and the car has four doors, but for someone my size the rear doorways are a little narrow.
The Brio is 3,6 m long, 1,5 m high and 1,6 m wide, but remarkably spacious inside. The car follows Honda’s maximum machine, minimum design philosophy and provides comfortable seating for four adults. It is possible to have three people seated at the back, but not for long distances. The internal plastics are hard, but the panels are well fitted and there were no rattles in the car even on poor surfaces. The dashboard is minimalist in design and the instrument panel is clear, analogue and simple to read. Other surfaces at the front are reduced to a minimum, providing generous legroom for the front passengers. The tactile and enjoyable three-spoke adjustable steering wheel has audio controls mounted on it The central stack is dominated by a four-speaker, radio, Aux/ USB, with controls for the effective air conditioner below it. The gear lever has a short, soft throw, making gear changing a pleasure. The seats are well-upholstered in what appears to be a heavy, hard-wearing covering and the upright options of the front seats are slim, leaving more space for the rear passengers. With so much space devoted to the driver and passengers, the boot is only 161 litres with the rear seats up, but with the seat folded down this goes to 519 litres.
Safety and security
The Brio has ABS with EBD, a driver and passenger air bag, seat belts for all five passengers and a high rear-mounted brake light. Protection is also provided by what Honda calls its G-Force Control Technology, where the high-tensile steel in the body protects against crashes. Also, the car’s nose is designed to offer any pedestrian it strikes the best chance of survival. The car also has remote central locking and immobiliser.
Performance and handling
The Brio weighs only 900 kg, while its four-cylinder 65 Kw/109 Nm petrol engine and five-speed manual or auto gearbox results in peppy performance in town, with speed platforms no problem. 0-100 km/h comes up in about 12 seconds and you should get between 6,5 to 7,0 litres per 100 km in fuel consumption. I needed to shop in Durban and took the Brio to Durban’s Gateway, with parking spaces so small that on two occasions I have had my car scratched by larger vehicles moving in or out of adjacent spaces. Small size, however, works in the Honda’s favour and parking was a pleasure. I left the car for two hours and returned to find no scuff marks on the doors, as is usual with adjacent parkers miscalculating when exiting their cars and, of course, nobody leaves a note. On the N3, the Brio lacks the torque for lightning performance, but work the gears and you will have no trouble overtaking anything. The car cruises effortlessly at 120 kph and often drifts upwards to 130 kph. Ride comfort is a feature of this car, while cornering is flat and the steering light and responsive. The Brio is no off roader, but it will take you where you need to go on gravel at a reasonable speed. Overall, the Brio is zippy, funky fun and good value.
Costs, guarantees and the opposition
The Brio Hatch 1,2 Trend comes in at R138 000, with the Auto Comfort costing around R164 000. The Amaze sedan Trend, which has a larger boot, costs around R151 000 and the Amaze Comfort Auto about R 174 000. The car comes with a three-year, 100 000 km warranty and a two-year 60 000 km service plan, with 15 000 km service intervals. Also look at Toyota Aygo, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10, VW Polo, among others.
The Honda Brio Hatch i-vtec Comfort.
The Amaze sedan Trend, which has a larger boot, will cost you around R151 000.